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I read in a book once that you should pay attention to what makes you jealous. If someone describes something they are doing or somewhere they are going and it makes your stomach twist and lips curl, that’s a sign. When your thoughts turn to “Must be nice!” instead of “Good for her,” then it’s a pretty sure bet the green monster of jealousy is eating at you bit by bit.

This is OK. The monster tells us what we are lacking.

Except for one thing. The problem with being a busy mother is that what we are lacking probably won’t be fulfilled anytime soon. We are lacking many things, and sometimes we don’t even have the brain space to prioritize how to spend our precious free time to make up for the canyon of lack we feel deep in our souls.

RELATED: A Mother’s Mind Never Rests, Because We Carry The Mental Load

Self-care is a buzzword, and it has become one of the most confusing things for me to unpack and apply to my life as a mother of two small children. On one hand, I understand my body needs food, rest, and a degree of peace in order for me to feel safe and mentally stable. But on the other hand, I am feeding myself last, getting up early to take care of the kids, and constantly feeling on edge because I have a baby climbing up my side and a whiney toddler arching her back in my arms.

How do I take care of myself when I am tasked with the monumental responsibility of taking care of a busy toddler and a clingy baby?

There is no easy answer. I pray for the strength to do my mama job well. I agree with those who say you have to fill your empty cup, but I also kind of agree with those who say giving up everything for your kids is necessary and worth it.

Everything, though? Do I have to give up everything?

No, I don’t think so.

So what’s the middle ground?

I was on the hunt for a good answer to the self-care controversy of motherhood.

I found relief one day as the answer unfolded right in front of me.

It was a slow afternoon. I sat in the living room recliner taking a breath after feeding the baby. My daughters were playing on the floor, quiet and content. My brain buzzed as usual with thoughts and worriesfinances, a potential moving situation, something my husband said earlier, the painful cramps in my gut foretelling my cycle.

My girls didn’t know. My big girl carefully turned the pages of her board book, humming to herself. Her beautiful curls flopped in front of her eyes, and she tried unsuccessfully to tuck them away. My little baby rolled around on her back, flipping a torn piece of paper in her hands back and forth, mesmerized. I smiled at the double chin she made while staring, unblinking at the magic of it all.

I sacrifice so they can be safe. I give up luxuries so they feel secure. I let go of sleep and date nights and vacations so they can know what daily unconditional love is.

RELATED: When Self-Care Feels Impossible, Focus on Making Room

Self-care is vital. I love taking showers. I love a warm bed and at least eight hours of sleep. I love reading a book on the back porch on a cool day where the sun warms my shoulders.

But I love them more.

And because they don’t know how scary the world can be or how tumultuous adult life feels, these are the years of sweet innocence. If I can bear the weight of the world for them so their souls rest easy, then I am committed to doing that. For them.

Self-care can be flexible. Today I might not get to eat a hot meal with two available handsbut hey, maybe tomorrow! It’s OK. A brisk, 20-minute walk when my husband gets home from work might be enough to hold me over through this season.

The green monster of jealousy sometimes hangs around, let’s be honest. I have to wrestle with that regularly. But my love for these two girls is growing, and I love being in on that action more than all the comforts this world can offer.

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Kim Patton

Kim Patton is an adoptive and foster mama living in South Carolina with her husband Kevin and two daughters; Eden and Shiloh. She writes for Waiting in Hope Infertility ministry and Shaunti Feldhahn, and has been the host of the Book Therapy podcast since 2022. Her second book, "Nothing Wasted: Struggling Well through Difficult Seasons" encourages readers to recognize personal growth amidst hard times. In her free time, she is usually reading a memoir in the sunshine, taking her girls to the playground or playing tennis with her husband at the YMCA.

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